Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Corner Still Has Its Head In The Sand

Jonathan Adler at National Review Online says today that he "highly recommends" a Wall Street Journal article on intelligent design by James Q. Wilson. The article makes many false claims. This is another of many examples of the evolutionists at National Review Online getting basic facts wrong. In the past, I've documented examples of John Derbyshire and Andrew Stuttaford making false claims on this issue or recommending resources that make false claims. National Review sometimes carries articles by advocates of intelligent design, but the popular part of their web site known as The Corner is dominated by evolutionists who frequently misrepresent the issues involved in the controversy. It seems that there are no intelligent design advocates who participate in The Corner who are willing to dispute what the likes of John Derbyshire and Jonathan Adler write. It's a shame, particularly considering that so many of the people in The Corner are professing Christians.

Here are some examples of the bad argumentation in James Q. Wilson's article that Jonathan Adler "highly recommends" (Wilson's words in red, my responses in black):

"There are many gaps in what we know about prehistoric creatures. But all that we have learned is consistent with the view that the creatures we encounter today had ancestors from which they evolved. This view, which is literally the only scientific defensible theory of the origin of species, does not by any means rule out the idea that God exists."

To say that the Cambrian Explosion is consistent with evolution is sort of like saying that the existence of a car in your garage is consistent with its evolution from a pile of scrap metal. If such evolution occurred, we'd expect to see both the scrap metal and the car. But we'd also expect to see more. Where are the intermediates, and why should we think that they evolved without the involvement of any intelligent agent?

"Proponents of intelligent design respond by saying that there are some things in the natural world that are so complex that they could not have been created by 'accident.'"

No, the issue isn't "could not". The issue is "probably did not". It's a matter of probability. Similarly, nobody opposes the conclusion that an intelligent agent is involved in archeology or SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) just because some materialistic explanation is possible. Is it possible that a jar with letters forming a sentence was brought about without an intelligent agent? Yes, maybe some clay just happened to fall together in the form of a jar, and maybe some rocks or other objects repeatedly just happened to rub against the jar in such a way that a sentence was formed. But no archeologist would refrain from concluding that an intelligent agent was involved just because of the (highly unlikely) possibility of that scenario.

"All of these variations and shortcomings are consistent with evolution. None is consistent with the view that the eye was designed by an intelligent being."

In other words, Wilson thinks that the car in his garage must not have been made by an intelligent agent if he gets a recall notice from the manufacturer.

How does Wilson know that something is a shortcoming in the first place? What if the intelligent agent in question wanted a particular creature to only live X number of years or only have limited capabilities, more limited than Wilson desires? What if some other factor has changed the original design of the designer, such as the introduction of sin into the world? Something isn't a "shortcoming" that disproves intelligent design just because Wilson thinks it ought to be different.

"Evolution, like almost every scientific theory, has some problems. But they are not the kinds of problems that can be solved by assuming that an intelligent designer (whom ID advocates will tell you privately is God) created life."

No, men like William Dembski and Michael Behe don't just acknowledge their theism in private. They speak of it publicly and often. And not all intelligent design advocates are theists.

But identifying the intelligent designer is a step beyond identifying the involvement of an intelligent designer. If SETI researchers detect a message from an intelligent agent, they don't have to know the identity of that agent in order to know that intelligent design is involved. God is the best ultimate explanation for the intelligent design we see in the universe. The fact that God is a religious entity does nothing to prevent us from being able to detect that intelligent design. To argue that we must refrain from following the evidence to the same conclusion we would reach under any other circumstance, because the best explanation for the intelligent agent in this case is God, is an unreasonable standard.